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Why Skyrim is What Every Sandbox Game Should Be

As one of the growing trends of video game design is the sandbox style of gameplay.  Even games, like the next Metal Gear title, that many people are worried won’t fit a sandbox style of play are moving in that direction.  As we brace ourselves for the incoming wave of sandbox games, I think it’s important that we acknowledge one of the most highly acclaimed games that helped define what a sandbox game should be. I am, of course, referring to the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Skyrim offers players the opportunity to explore a massive landscape, doing so with whatever combat style and moral compass that they choose. If you haven’t tried Skyrim yet, I am going to rhyme off a few reasons that should convince you to check it out this holiday season. If you have already played it, then perhaps you may want to reminisce about the good times.

4. Re-playability

One of the major issues nowadays with many popular games is that they only offer a limited amount of re-playability. Once you complete the main storyline, you’re left with the choice of either doing exactly what you just did, or moving onto something new. One of Skyrim’s strong points, if not its strongest, is the options available for quests. There is, of course, the main quest that is fully scripted, but Skyrim also has an abundance of side quests available that, unless you play for a few hundred hours, seem endless. If that’s not bang-for-your-buck, then I don’t know what is. These quests vary in what they require, and vary in complexity. But a point to stress is that they do vary. They may be similar in design, go-here, and do that, but in comparison to Call of Duty or Battlefield online, which are pretty much the only re-playable portions of either series, it’s night and day. You are interacting with different characters, landscapes, and challenges, while continuously growing your character’s ability.

Another one of the many reasons players keep coming back to Skyrim is the ability to upgrade so many varying characteristics. Have a little perfectionism issue? Then perhaps you don’t want to get hooked on character self-improvement. These skills directly affect the usefulness of different abilities, such as a higher smithing ability being able to create better armor, or whatever type of attack is preferred. These skills do not easily increase, and provide different options for unlockable techniques. Hell, why improve yourself when you can improve your virtual character from the comfort of your living room/bedroom/dungeon?

Skyrim Quests Layouted

3. Decisions, Decisions

Games where you just go through their designed track can be enjoyable, as long as they are compelling in other areas. Skyrim obviously doesn’t fit the one-track mold, as it employs “Radiant Story” technology that reacts to how you play the game, and alters the people and environment accordingly. This not only allows for different story-lines to be accessible, but provides a consequence system that mirrors reality. Players are forced to weigh the morality of their decisions, and decide where the moral compass of their character lies. There are many ambiguous situations in the game that require a choice, and the “correct” answer is not always clear. It sometimes requires individuals to pick what they believe is the lesser of the evils, rather than a clear-cut morally right decision. This may leave some players feeling uneasy about their decisions, but such is expected when dealing with life and death.

skyrim - moral decisions

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